There are too many domestic bees in Swiss cities, according to a study by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).
Beekeeping is booming in Swiss cities, but the uncontrolled increase in honeybees is putting increasing pressure on wild pollinators, threatening urban biodiversity, found the study. The results suggest that beekeeping in cities requires better regulation.
Researchers Joan Casanelles Abella and Marco Moretti created a computational model comparing the existing number of hives in fourteen Swiss cities with the available flowering environment over the 7 years from 2012 to 2018. They found that the amount of beekeeping sites nearly tripled in that time, leaving insufficient flowers for wild bees.
Wild bees are not the only insects that suffer. When you overcharge a system beyond its carrying capacity it causes other organisms that depend on the same resources to suffer, Casanelles Abella says. The food shortage affects all insects that feed on the same flowering plants as the managed honeybees, including wild bees. Of the approximately 600 wild bee species in Switzerland, roughly 45 percent are considered endangered.
People often perceive farmed honeybees as wild animals because they live and move freely, said Casanelles Abella. In reality, however, they are just like other livestock. They put stress on the environment and ecosystem.
Beekeeping is a form of agriculture, but in cities, the breeding of honeybees has increasingly become a recreational activity. The vast majority of people who are keeping honeybees are individuals who want to contribute to a natural environment.
The public needs to be better educated about the adverse effects of beekeeping, so that urban biodiversity is not thrown out of balance, conclude the authors.